This weekend I had an Empress of the Universe moment. This occurs when I am reminded of problems that have broad, far-reaching effects that can only be solved by giving me total control of the universe; specifically, what everyone thinks and does.
Since I’m pretty sure this is not going to happen – mostly because doing so would require I have a smattering of knowledge about things like transportation infrastructure and the proper etiquette when being presented to the foreign dignitaries – I am left to pontificate from my pitiful little keyboard about reversing social and cultural mores that have developed over the course of several millennia. I try to fit it in between loads of laundry.
My Empress of the Universe moment came as the result of an offhand comment by one of the countless political pundits on one of the countless news shows Dirtman watches every weekend.
Dirtman, by the way, is my current events motivator. Were it not for Dirtman, I’d be clueless as to what is going on in the world. I’d never vote because I’d forget to register and would be under the impression that President Carter is still working to bring those hostages home.
Anyway, this commentator pointed out that part of President-elect Barack Obama’s education plan is to increase the amount of time children spend in school. It seems that children spend only 20 percent of their time in school (emphasis mine).
At first the statement simply got my old homeschool mom’s back up. So little time, I thought sarcastically, and they still manage to make kids hate learning. So, sure, let’s give them even more time to squelch their imaginations and creativity and put them in socially awkward situations to scar them for life.
But deep down I know the value of the public education system, of which one of my sons is now a part. And I know homeschooling is not the panacea that the zealots would have you believe. (And, for the seven billionth time: Yes, my kids were properly socialized.)
What really disturbed me was the fact that everyone – the commentator, the panel on the show and the president-elect himself – seemed to agree that children being under their parents’ care for 80 percent of their time is a bad thing.
In other words, parents are so inept at dealing with their own children, it’s better the tykes be institutionalized for increasing amounts of time.
Frankly, I can understand their concern. See, the idea of having kids is irresistible and the media makes it even more so. All those primary colors, the happy-go-lucky attitude, the cutely precocious actor kids on television and the Hallmark moments complete with syrupy soundtracks.
The reality of kids is different. Kids are basically cruel little savages that have to be taught that happy-go-lucky attitude; it takes money for clothes, a hairdresser and a good script for a kid to be the next Abigail Breslin; and the usual soundtrack to those heart-to-heart discussions is usually the whine of a kid saying, “But everyone else gets to do it…”
Perhaps relinquishing more and more of our parenting responsibilities has come about because of the supposition that there is something wrong with you if you don’t want children, especially if you are married. Add to that the amount of children born for stupid reasons like saving a marriage or because a sibling had one, and you have a lot of people raising children who would much rather be doing something else.
As Empress I would change everyone’s attitude about why they have children. By decree.
Fact is, parenting isn’t particularly glamorous or exciting when done right. Anyone who has listened to a four-year-old explain their endless dream from the previous night can attest to the thespiatic feat of looking totally absorbed when they say, “And then you know what happened?” And the night seems endless when you have to stay up waiting for your teen to come home from a party so he knows he’s got to get past you smelling normal and sober. You’ve got to sit through endless games of Candyland; smile through off-key renditions of Rhapsody in Blue on the clarinet; be encouraging and positive even though you know all the desire in the world will not gain them entrance to Major League Baseball, The American Ballet Theatre or MIT.
Is it any wonder so many parents flee to a job, hire a nanny, buy massive amounts of video games, send the tykes to grandma’s or turn to the government to do something about helping to raise these pesky responsibilities our nation’s children?
Because, ya know…they’re Our Future and all.
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